nivo total station teodolit hiperaktivite The Non-Consumer Advocate Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without. Page 4

Choosing Experiences Over Stuff

by Katy on July 5, 2014 · 31 comments

Ashland library

My family is on a mini four-day-vacation right now. Okay let me rephrase that, my husband, 18-year-old son and I are on vacation right now. Because without our 16-year-old son, it somehow doesn’t seem right to refer to ourselves as a “family.” (But since that lucky duck is spending a month in Sapporo, Japan I hardly feel that he’s being deprived of any car trip vacation opportunities.)

Where was I?

Oh yes, my family is on a mini-vacation right now.

Rather than buying something for our son as a high school graduation gift, we decided instead for an experiential gift and take him on his very own vacation. Money is, as always, tight, so anywhere that would require flight was out of the question. (Although I have been getting more shifts at the hospital which has helped to loosen up my money anxiety issues.) I came up with the idea to drive down to Ashland for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. My initial thinking was that we’d see one Shakespearean play and one non-Shakespearean play, but since tickets are very pricey, I bought great tickets for the single play I thought we’d all enjoy. (The Tempest.) And also that we’d pack the trip with lots of wonderful (but frugal) things to do.

Before we could plan any activities, I needed to find a place to stay that wouldn’t eat up our entire budget. I used Priceline to shop for a motel, and then took my step-father’s advice to stay in close-by Medford instead of schwanky Ashland. And since this meant we could pay $68 per night instead of Ashland’s typical $175 per night, this was an easy decision. Of course, I went through eBates, which gave me an extra 4% back after the additional 5% I got back for using the Priceline promo code of SUMMER14. (Whew . . . ) Add the free deluxe continental breakfast included with our stay, and our housing was a unmitigated bargain!

Is our hotel a luxurious experience? Nope. It’s a Ramada Inn, which is A-OK with me. It’s clean, the beds are comfortable and it has both a pool and a fitness center. And since we’re saving so such money on housing, we can spend in other areas without worry.

We could save a ton of money by packing our own food and forgoing restaurant meals, but my family really enjoys the experience of eating out when we travel.

Yesterday we used Yelp to locate a locally owned Filipino restaurant in Keizer, Oregon for lunch on our drive down to Ashland, and for dinner we ate at a British-ish pub, as my son was craving fish and chips. (And since we used Yelp to find the restaurant, we earned a free dessert as a reward for “checking in.”)

We then explored Ashland and located a perfect spot to watch the town’s fireworks display. It was literally across the the street from where they were being shot off, and it felt like we were directly beneath the fireworks.

Today we’ll see our play, and then wander around town. Tomorrow we’ll explore the Historic Landmark town of Jacksonville and likely eat more delicious food. My son has a scheduled tour on Monday at Southern Oregon University, after which we’ll head over to the Oregon coast to slowly make our way back home. (My son is taking a gap year before college, which has given him an extra year to explore his college opportunities.)

Nowhere in our itinerary will there be buying of location specific and useless souvenirs. (Although I have picked up two pennies so far.)

And hopefully, my son while have fond memories of his experiential graduation gift, where he got his parents all to himself.

Have you been moving toward experiential gifts over stuff? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Disclosure, the eBates link is an affiliant link, which helps to support the blog.

{ 31 comments }

Clothesline Color

by Katy on July 2, 2014 · 9 comments

I really like the colors on my clothesline today.

Clothesline

And to quote Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada:

“That is all.”

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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Today I Am . . .

by Katy on July 1, 2014 · 16 comments

Grocery Outlet

Today I am . . . 

  • Driving the Japanese exchange student to the airport as he’s traveling to New York for a week.
  • Stopping at Ikea afterwards to enjoy a free cup of coffee and pick up a free big blue bag thanks to the Chinook Book that someone left at one of my mother’s guest cottages for me. (I’ll use the bag to stash stuff for my upcoming garage sale.)
  • Eating a 50¢ hot dog. Urp . . .
  • Forgetting to bring the CFL lightbulbs that I could have dropped off at Ikea. Craaaap . . .
  • Popping into the Grocery Outlet for goodies and also using a Chinook Book coupon. ($3-off-$25!)
  • Putting together a Craigslist listing for my like-new Goodwill Danskos.
  • Planning a dinner based on what I found at The Grocery Outlet. (Nice cheap drumsticks = Chicken Adobo!)
  • Taking advantage of the hot, dry and windy weather to hang multiple loads of laundry on my clothesline. (Sun dried sheets . . . mmm . . .  <– Homer Simpson sound.)
  • Considering doing a weeklong SNAP/Food Stamp Challenge in conjunction with Grocery Outlet’s Independence From Hunger campaign. (Start next week?)
  • Putting my feet up to read the new Jane Green book.
  • Thinking that I should borrow the neighbor’s power washer and remove the slimy moss scum from my brick patio.
  • Listening to my husband watch the U.S. vs. Belgium World Cup game.
  • Repeatedly reminding myself that tomorrow is the day to sign up for work shifts.
  • Happy to have enough work, but happy that today is not one of those days.
  • Getting excited about my family four-day trip down to Ashland, Oregon.
  • Oddly energized.
  • Happy.

Now your turn. What are you doing today?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 16 comments }

Portland Goodwill shoppers are very lucky. Not only are our thrift shops fit to burst with bargain treasures, but we also have an awesome Goodwill Club program that tracks our purchases, gives us discounts and then lovingly obligingly spits out a $10 store credit for every $500 we spend.

Oh, wait a minute. Portland used to have a Goodwill Club program. Because as of today, June 30th, 2014, this program has been disbanded. I should have anticipated this catastrophic sad occasion, as this program has been systematically watered down through the years. But I knew I was very close to the $500 mark, so I stopped in at Goodwill on my way home from work yesterday. My goal was to spend my way to the $500, which I was only $24 away from achieving. (And before you get horrified that I’ve spent so much, keep in mind that I often buy Goodwill items for resale, so I actually make money when I shop.) I wanted a pair of non-flared jeans, plus whatever else I regularly keep an eye out for.

My eye was drawn by this $5 irresistible handmade vintage throw pillow. (I love the corner tassels!) It passed my sniff test, so into the cart it went.

throw pillow

And of course, there was the inevitable targeted savings bank. This time for “Mom’s Spare Change,” a new one to my imaginary collection!

Mom's spare change

And although I went down the knick-knack aisle, no dust collectors came home with me, although I was briefly enchanted by this Fiestaware dancing lady. I love my Fiestaware dishes, but a plastic tchotchke of the logo? Tacky!

Fiestaware dancing lady

And since I already have an almost excessive number of chairs to my name I also bypassed this sweet “Little Old Wood Chair:”

little wooden chair

See? Little Old Wood Chair!

chair detail

I’ve been keeping an eye out for a simple pair of black flats for months, and this actually-fits-me pair was only $4, so yup, I bought them too!

flats

had to buy this new looking pair of $9 Danskos, which were sadly ever so slightly too small for me. (Damned big feet!) They’re $120 new, and soon to be $50 on Portland Craigslist.

Danskos

I did find a pair of (unphotographed) $7 skinny-legged jeans which brought my Goodwill Club grand total to (drum roll please!)  $501!

So woo-hoo, I earned (okay, overspent my way) to a $10 voucher!

501 Goodwill points!!!!

Goodbye, dear Goodwill Club. I will miss you dearly.

Sniff . . .

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 17 comments }

Speak Your Mind Even If Your Voice Shakes
Although I’m far from ever being labeled as “shy,” I still have to gather my courage before speaking up for myself. Why? I think it’s simply human nature to want to smooth things over and not make waves.

I look back on times and events that I regret in my life, and I mostly identify when I did not speak up for myself or my children. The fourth grade teacher who was consistently negative and oddly punitive towards my son. I once asked her if she had anything positive to say about my son, and she simply stared me down without saying a word. All the other parents said she was “a great teacher, if you have a girl.” (Just writing about it makes me white hot with rage!) And by the way, her main complaint about my son was that he wiggled in his seat and looked out the window.

But I’m older and wiser now, and realize that addressing the issues with the teacher was a battle I should have chosen. But at the time, I feared she would be even worse to my son if I confronted her with my concerns. I deeply regret this.

Luckily, my current life is pretty smooth, although there still seem to be times when I have to take a deep breath, gather my courage and speak my mind.

I went in for my annual work evaluation yesterday. The paperwork goes into my human resources file, and is as close to that dreaded permanent record as is likely at this phase of my life. Although I’ve been in the same hospital-based RN job for 19 years, these meetings always give me a case of the jitters. I sat down and noticed that I was being being marked as having “met” rather than “exceeded” at my job. And although “met” is considered perfectly acceptable, I felt the need to speak up.

I explained to my boss, (who is kept busy with meetings, and doesn’t ever see me in action) that I felt that I earned the “exceeded” label. That I hold myself to a very high standard, that I work to support a positive work environment and that I try to be the nurse I wish I was working with. She listened to what I said, and then changed my rating.

It made me nervous to speak up for myself, but I did it anyway.

And this morning, I sat down to read through my e-mails, and sent out three very carefully worded e-mails that I would have much preferred to procrastinate or simply delete. Emails that required me to bypass my natural inclination to shy away from sticking up for myself. But because they were in written form, none will be the wiser that my voice was shaking; but yes, it was.

I often think of the popular bumper sticker quoting grey panther Maggie Kuhn, encouraging people to “Speak your mind, even if your voice shakes.” (I know that anything translated to a bumper sticker format immediately becomes trite, but I find inspiration in it anyway.)

How does this relate to non-consumerism?

By choosing a less traditional life, there are inevitable uncomfortable conversations. Whether it’s telling a family member that you want to tone down Christmas or simply declining expensive invitations. Or even just living a simple life that sometimes does require you to explain your decisions, even when it’s no one’s business but your own.

So please non-consumers, speak your mind. Even if your voice shakes.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments }

Spend Less and Earn More

by Katy on June 25, 2014 · 12 comments

Today is a Throwback Thursday blog post from May, 2011. Enjoy!

My son’s Iron Giant toy just sold for $102.50 on eBay.

I have been somewhat cash poor lately. My day job as a labor and delivery nurse has been a bit sporadic of late, (C’mon suburban Portland ladies, surely a night of fun and games without birth control is worth it. Right?!) and as a result my paychecks have been lighter than a piece of space shuttle Wonder Bread. And as much as I hate not having a checking account cushion, I am not stressing. Why?

Because I know how to spend less money and how to earn more money.

Here’s how my family spend less money this weekend:

  • Both my sons had soccer games over the weekend. We choose to have them play recreation soccer over classic soccer. This means a $45 playing fee rather than a $1000 fee.
  • I made pizza from scratch on Saturday night. This was partly due to a bag of shredded mozzarella cheese that I was worried was soon to get funky. I bought pepperoni and sausage from my local pizza joint, which set us back $1.
  • My younger son had a 24+ hour sleepover with an old friend. I rented them a movie from the Redbox near the house. I used a Groupon, which brought the price down to 33.34¢.
  • My older son had his girlfriend to the house all day Sunday. For dinner I made chicken adobo, using drumsticks, which are much cheaper than chicken breasts.
  • We drove nowhere except the soccer games, (for which we provided the carpool) and walked all our errands.
  • I took my younger son and his friend to the nearby nickel arcade. I used a coupon for free admission, which included $5 in nickels. I cautioned them to make the money last.
  • When it turned out that were at the arcade an hour before it opened, we walked over to the park where the boys played on the swings and had a contest about who could jump the farthest from their swing.
  • I made sure to return my marble reference book back to the library before it was due. This saves me 25¢ per day.
  • We did no recreational shopping, even to thrift stores.

Here’s how we made more money:

  • I continued selling extra valuable belongings on eBay. I currently have the last of my Goodwill marbles for sale, which will end tonight. I also sold my son’s Iron Giant stuffed robot for $102.50, (he gets to keep this money) and a stack of old Mary Engelbreit Home Companion magazines for $40.99.
  • I found $1.21 on the ground and in the change return slots at the arcade. I used part of this to pay off my 75¢ library fine.
  • I continued selling extra plants from my garden on my front steps. This may sound a bit meshugenah, but I made $1 yesterday, and when my younger son needed $10 cash for a haircut last week, I was able to grab some “plant money” to cover the cost. I estimate this little experiment has garnered $25.
  • My husband was a given a generous Starbucks gift card as a thank you for volunteering to coach the soccer team. He doesn’t volunteer for the freebies, but parents will often give him small token gifts.
  • I blogged. I don’t make a fortune with The Non-Consumer Advocate, but I did receive a Blogher check for $120.05 on Saturday.

None one of these frugal hacks will set you financially free, but the combination of everything together makes a huge difference in our lives.

Today, I will spend the day whipping the house into shape, dealing with a few Monday morning chores and maybe even planning a few more eBay listings. And hopefully, the scheduler at work will let me know that I’ve been granted a regular number of shifts for next month.

What are you doing to spend less and earn more? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 12 comments }

Five things that make me happy:

1) This photo of my son and his Japanese host family:

Japanese host family

2) Netflix options such as Tiny: A Story About Living Small, Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, and Orange is The New Black.  Especially Orange is The New Black, and especially the scene in Vee’s apartment where she serves salad from one of my favorite $1.99 Goodwill bowls:

Vee and my bowl

3) The rainbows that scatter along the floor of my childhood home from the leaded glass windows:

Rainbow feet

4) Finding new and creative solutions for avoiding food waste, such as making crostini from leftover french bread from my makeshift croque monsieur dinner:

Croque monsieur

Just brush olive oil over french bread slices, add a bit of salt, bake a bit and voilà you’ve got crostini! Perfect to pair with the Grocery Outlet brie I picked up earlier. And since french bread on day two is harder than a moon rock, it preemptively avoids that fate.

Crostini

5) Fresh berry season in Oregon. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries!

One thing that’s pissing me off:

1) My 46-year-old female metabolism. I eat very healthfully, yet you’d think I eat nothing but McDonald’s. If I ate the way I do now when I was in my twenties I would have been skinny, skinny, skinny. Blarghhh!

Now your turn. What’s making you happen and conversely what’s pissing you off? 

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 47 comments }

Airport boys

  1. We’re currently hosting a Japanese exchange college student who stayed with us in 2011. He’s been studying in Portland all year, and needed place to stay for a few weeks after school ended. Although traveling to another country is prohibitively expensive for the entire family right now, hosting costs next to nothing. Not only do we learn new things about the Japanese culture every time we host, but it’s also a teeny bit like traveling without leaving home.
  2. We spent yesterday driving to and from Mt. Hood. And although we could have stayed at my father’s cabin for free, I wanted to just keep it simple. I made sure to serve a filling brunch before we left the house, and stopped at Subway for footlong sandwiches late in the afternoon. We walked along the Zig Zag river, hiked up to Mirror Lake and drove all the way up to Timberline Lodge. Yes, we used gasoline, but I made sure to fill up at the cheap Safeway station on the way home, which was priced at 30¢-per-gallon less than in Portland. I could have splurged on a restaurant dinner, but that would have added at least $60 to our day.
  3. My 16-year-old son, who is on day three of his monthlong exchange to Japan had some very specific items he needed to buy for his trip. This included two pairs of black slacks and two short sleeve white dress shirts. (School uniform.) I ended up having to buy the shirts new, but it was only after looking for weeks in area thrift shops. However, I got two new looking pairs of slacks, as well as a black belt, plus his already thrifted standard wardrobe. He used the thrifted large roll aboard suitcase from my older son’s trip.
  4.  My husband was bringing five people to a recent Portland Timbers game, (using tickets he got for free.) and I was concerned that the price of feeding everyone at the stadium would kill the whole “got all these tickets for free” vibe. I was able to quickly cook up a batch of red lentil soup and cheddar biscuits that satisfied everyone and kept the budget under control.
  5. Orgy HornI did not spend $2.99 to buy this Goodwill Orgy Horn. “You can’t put it down till you finish your drink.” Eeuww . . . 

Orgy Horn

Orgy Horn

Orgy Horn

Now your turn. What frugal things have you been up to?

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 23 comments }

How Cheap is Too Cheap?

by Katy on June 17, 2014 · 32 comments

I am very, very cheap.

This is neither a confession nor should it be a surprise to anyone who’s read The Non-Consumer Advocate for more than a week or two. It’s simply a fact, a fact I’m proud of. I keep myself stocked with ponytail holders by picking them up off the ground, I bring home the abandoned leftovers from my mother’s guest cottages and I do all my own beauty care. I color my own hair, beg free haircuts from my sister and use the waxing kit from the drugstore for my, umm . . . Mario and Luigi needs.

But I would like to think that within my cheapness lies a certain generosity.

Yes, I nab the cheapest option for school volunteer opportunities, (“clean up” rather than “bring cupcakes”) but I am still doing my due diligence as a parent volunteer. We’re currently housing a former Japanese exchange student without accepting payment and we’ve sponsored a Zambian girl through Childfund over the past eight years. I’m not as generous as some, but I figure that I’m more generous than others.

But I will always try and figure out free or cheap solutions to life’s daily expenditures.

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Maeve Binchy’s Chestnut Street. (Wonderful, I highly recommend it!) This collection of short stories features a character who’s so frugal as to be considered “mean.” (British term for someone who is both cheap and ungenerous.) At first I was excited to have this character, but as the stories were set as morals, this guy was far from being a source of inspiration. He marries a woman because she’s financially solvent and then forces her to work after hours, and generally delights in his cheapness at the expense of all others in his life. (I wish I could include a quote or two, but since it was an audiobook, the words are next to impossible to capture.)

Needless to say, there was no generosity within his cheapness.

I asked Non-Consumer Advocate Facebook Group members this question:

Do you ever catch yourself being too cheap? What do you do that others consider to be crossing the line of acceptable frugality?”

Here are just a few from the many answers.

From Shannon:

“My cheapo confession is that we sometimes fish coke codes out of the trash or off the side of the road. Have gotten $100+ worth of gift cards and we don’t drink soda.”

From Lisa:

“Most things I do the “average” family thinks of as “too cheap.” No credit cards, no tv, no wifi (though that is changing very soon due to a college student) no computer at home (ditto), no go-away vacations, no fake nails, no spa/salon visits, no “essential” mani/pedi/waxing (ok, I wax my eyebrows–but at home!), almost no eating out etc for maybe birthdays, no hording coupons (I don’t buy much of that stuff), no new decorating every time I’m bored (I did do the bathroom this year because it was all over 10 years old and from a previous house, but got everything on clearance), I could go on and on and on. When a friend applied for a mortgage they asked how much for fake nails! I was gobsmacked. This country no longer has the ability to tell a want from a need!”

From Selina:

“I will tell you something that crossed the line, IMO. Before we had kids, we stayed with my aunt and uncle out of state for three nights. They told me I could not shower — at all — while we were there, and they didn’t flush the toilet until it “was full.” Ewww! The whole house smelled, really. My hubby went to the bathroom, then flushed, and it overflowed. To this day, that is one of his most horrifying memories. We never stayed there again! ”

I personally can’t imagine a time when I would stop employing creative cheap/frugal solutions to everyday problems. (Even if I did win the lottery.) My cheapness allows my family to pay for things like a summer in Japan, (my son leaves on Thursday!) and frees up my time and money. If I worked full time, it would be difficult to host exchange students, and thrifting for life’s necessities would be too time consuming.

My daily cheap life gives me the wiggle room to live the life I want. If my cheapness means that I have the time and money for the important stuff, then there’s no such thing as too cheap.

Do you embrace a cheap lifestyle that allows for generosity? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 32 comments }

It’s time again for Non-Consumer Mish-Mash, where I write a little bit about this and a little bit about that.

From Stained T-Shirts to Useful Rug

I have a new favorite decor blog called Upstyler.net, whose tagline is “Creating treasure from trash.” A recent blog post features a small round rug made from crocheted old T-shirts. The pink and white colors are super adorable for a small girl’s room and totally within my skill set. (I can crochet, I just normally see no need to do it.)

There are always old scrappy T-shirts in Portland’s free boxes/piles, and this would be the perfect project to make use of these unwanted garments.

Click HERE to read the blog post.

Mini Non-Consumer Photo Essay

Today I took my son thrifting to find some of the things he needs for his upcoming summer in Japan. (Black slacks, white dress shirts, etc.) Of course, I came across a directed savings bank:

Cadillac Bank

I bought a packet of assorted lettuce seeds last week and noticed that the larger amount cost 10¢ less. Guess which one I bought.

Lettuce seeds

Of course it would take eighty 10¢ savings to cover the cost of parking at my son’s high school graduation ceremony.

Gulp.

$8 Parking

We picked up our Japanese exchange student yesterday at the Portland State University dorms, where the students were abandoning their belongings left and right. It took every ounce of self control possible to not cram the mini-van with all the perfectly good (and re-saleable) stuff. This student’s girlfriend chose not to be photographed, as she “was still hungover from last night.”

Ahh . . . college.

Dorm move-out

What’s in the box? It killed me to not rummage through the dumpsters, but I did bring home this perfectly fine floor lamp. It will be featured soon in its very own blog post!

Dumpster lamp

Omiyage Japanese Host Family Gifts

I am in the final countdown with all the millions of details for readying my son for his month in Sapporo. (Are you noticing a theme?) And since he’ll stay with two different host families with a total of six kids between them, I am working hard to figure out the very best host family gifts. Ideally the gifts will be useful, locally made or edible. Also, not heavy or breakable. So far I’ve bought faux-retro Oregon tea towels for the mothers, and boxes of See’s lollipops as whole-family gifts.

I am not one for giving useless knick-knacks or anything designed to simply decorate a stranger’s home. We’ll see what I come up with over the next few days.

I do this every few years, so I try to not reinvent the wheel. And yes, Japanese host family gifts are very much one of my Compact (buy-nothing-new) exceptions.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 16 comments }

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